Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 17 Issue 4 (October/December 1999), Pages 407-551

MMPI‐2 validity scales in child custody evaluations: clinical versus statistical significance (pages 409-411)


The MMPI‐2 is commonly used in the psychological assessment of parents within child custody evaluations. Due to the interface of mental health practitioners with non‐mental‐health professionals in the context of child custody cases, careful attention must be paid to the potential misunderstanding or misuse of data from psychological testing. While traditional clinical lore has maintained an expectation of clinically significant defensiveness on the MMPI‐2 with this population, the research data does not support this view. Despite empirical findings that identify patterns of elevations on the MMPI‐2 validity scales with parents involved in child custody disputes, these patterns have been demonstrated to reach statistical but not clinical significance. That is, MMPI‐2 profiles that contain elevations on scales L or K that either invalidate or notably suppress clinical scales are not to be expected in the child custody population. False causal attributions contributing to the potential mischaracterization or loss of important data related to personality functioning within this population are identified and discussed. Potential dangers associated with such false causal attributions are reviewed. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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